Palm Sunday – Year A

Michael F. Di Gregorio, O.S.A.
Prior Provincial
Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova

Mt 21: 1-11
Is 50: 4-7
Ps 22: 8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-34
Phil 2: 6-11
Mt 26: 14-27; 66

Palm Sunday is, in a most profound way, a study in contrasts! It mirrors well, therefore, the sometimes conflicting, puzzling condition we find within ourselves, of which both Saint Paul and Saint Augustine speak so openly regarding their personal experience.

The Liturgy at the start of Holy Week begins joyously, recalling the triumphant entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem, surrounded and cheered by crowds of people who acclaim him the Messiah and want to make him their king.

But as the Scripture readings are delivered and reach their climax in the dramatic proclamation of the Passion, we notice how this heartening sentiment changes, and hear these same people just a few short days thereafter, disillusioned with Jesus and calling for his crucifixion.

At first the jubilant crowd tore branches from palm trees to celebrate his arrival – later the angry mob would nail him to a tree and celebrate his destruction. How fickle the crowd can be, any crowd, and the individuals who compose it!

As this week progresses it may be useful to keep the palm branch which we receive on this day in sight. Watch how it goes lifeless and brittle. See how appropriate a symbol it is of human superficiality, how well it illustrates our changeable nature, perhaps even our own unfaithfulness and inconstancy.

Watch how inappropriate it is, on the other hand, as a sign to welcome Jesus, who was never anything but faithful, never less than perfectly loyal to the will of his Father and to us, to the very end.

It is not difficult to stand with the jubilant crowd when we celebrate a few moments of glory. When the Good Fridays of life approach we are asked to stand also in solidarity. Will we be able to do so? Will we do so even tomorrow in the quiet, sometimes wide and heavy space between crown and cross?